Children are constantly looking for opportunities in which to expand their independence. Parents are constantly looking for ways to help their children grow and develop knew knowledge. If you’re wondering how to fill both of those needs, look no further than your own kitchen! There are many things you can do to make your kitchen friendly and inviting for kids. Bring your little chefs into the kitchen today and check out these 7 tips for encouraging new skills and independence while planning, preparing, and serving family meals.
1. Invite kids to help in meal planning and grocery shopping
Rather than just writing everything down yourself, why not involve the kids in the meal planning part of your month? Kids definitely have an opinion when it comes to the food they like to eat, and making compromises on your end – such as chicken nuggets and fries every other Wednesday – is apt to make them more likely to compromise when it comes to that green bean casserole you keep trying to get them to eat!
Sit down together and make a list of everyone’s favorite meals. Talk about the food groups and how each meal is best if it has lots of color and a variety of foods. Help them select foods from each group to make up each meal, then make your grocery list based on the meals you have created. Kids are great at helping find and retrieve shopping list items while in the grocery store too! Involve them in as many ways as you can.
2. Give them choices when it comes to snacks and lunches
Encourage kids to take the lead on their snacks and lunches by creating “stations” in your kitchen that set healthy boundaries while also allowing for individual choice. A basket full of healthy snacks in the pantry is a great option for when children come home hungry from school. Another idea worth considering is a “build-your-own-lunch” station. You can provide the sandwich fixings and lunchbox essentials, but allow the kids to choose and create a lunch all their own from those options.
3. Provide them with their own set of (safe) kitchen tools and an apron
What could be more fun than having your own set of tools when it’s time to help mom or dad in the kitchen? Kids will love having their own special utensils, bowls, and an apron. Try this fantastic set – it’s got everything those little hearts could desire.
4. Invite them to cook with you
There are many things children can help with when it comes to preparing food. Depending on a child’s age, mixing, pouring, cutting, and measuring are just a few of the skills that can be developed. If you need some ideas for age-appropriate tasks kids can complete in the kitchen, check out this infographic from Cooksmarts. If you want a few great ideas for simple foods you can make together, try these kid-friendly recipes.
5. Give them the reins for dinner once a month
Whether it’s macaroni and cheese from a box, peanut butter sandwiches, or something bold and adventurous, just go with it! The kids will love having the freedom to choose what, when, and how to get food on the table. If they ask for help or want to give you an assignment you can join in as “sous chef.” If they don’t seem to need you, be sure you still stick around to supervise and always follow safety rules for tools and appliances.
6. Consider growing a small garden
Showing kids where their food comes from and teaching them how to be part of the process is a great way to get them interested in new foods and trying new things. If you don’t have the room for a garden plot, growing herbs in old soup cans or keeping a tomato plant on the porch can bring just as many benefits. Not sure what to grow? Try a few of these ideas for plants you can grow indoors if you’re really stumped! Allow children to help plant, feed, and water your little garden, then show them the many ways you can use your homegrown “ingredients” in everyday family cooking!
7. Teach kids how to set the table and serve themselves
Every kid has seen the table set, but not every kid has learned to set it. Teach them the basics of table-setting etiquette – it will give them something to think about the next time they sit down to a nice meal! If you like, you can spend time making a simple table-setting placemat like these made from construction paper, or this one created from dollar store placemats. And don’t be afraid to let children serve themselves in the right settings. There might be a few spills and plates piled high with Jell-O, but often children just need opportunities to show you what they’re capable of!
Did you enjoy learning ways to teach kids in the kitchen? Looking for more great ideas for kids? Try these tips for raising kids who love learning!
Featured image via Better Homes and Gardens.
Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.